Home to Western Europe’s second largest castle, Caerphilly has been a fortification for Labour for more than a century.

Coalmining communities such as Bedwas, Senghenydd and Penallta were at the centre of Wales and the world’s industrial revolution, lending itself to Labour support for generations.

The party has won every UK general election dating back to the end of the First World War, and has delivered Senedd members in each and every devolved election to date.

Looking at the historical results, you would assume Caerphilly is an impenetrable fortress in the heart of Labour’s real red wall in the south wales valleys, right? Let’s take a closer look.

A 2016 Labour scare

In 2016, Labour had somewhat of a fright in the valleys. As Leanne Wood was tearing Rhondda away from Labour’s Leighton Andrews, there were fears Plaid may pull off a similar result in Caerphilly.

Jeff Cuthbert had won with a majority of 4,924 – some 19.3 per cent – in 2011, but had decided to leave the Senedd and stand for Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent.In his place, Labour councillor Hefin David stood for the party, but was run close by his Plaid opponent Lindsay Whittle.

When all votes were counted, Dr David won with a majority of 1,575 - some 5.8 per cent of the vote. That swing can be put down to a departing incumbent, but there was another factor in play up and down the streets of the lower Rhymney Valley: UKIP.

Fronted by popular local candidate Sam Gould, who passed away in 2017, UKIP were a force in Caerphilly in 2016.

READ MORE: Welsh Conservatives Senedd election campaign aims at North Wales

As well as riding the pre-referendum Brexit wave, Gould had a powerful local presence as well. He came second to Labour in the 2015 UK general election.

Mr Gould received 5,954 votes in 2016, 22 per cent of the total vote that ate into Labour’s majority, in an election where Plaid’s vote share stagnated.

Where the UKIP vote goes will be an important player this year, with both Reform and Abolish standing in the seat.             

Big name candidates

One thing Labour and Plaid share in common in Caerphilly is big name candidates.

Hefin David, despite being a Labour backbencher and relative newcomer to the Senedd, has carved a reputation out within the constituency, delivering regular social media engagement events with constituents throughout the pandemic. Dr David has also made himself an opponent to some in the Welsh independence movement, often receiving abuse for his position online.

READ MOREAll eyes on Wrexham as Tories look to repeat 2019 success

Leading Plaid into battle, Delyth Jewell – who replaced Steffan Lewis as Plaid’s MS in South Wales East after he passed away in 2019 – has also forged an identity of her own within her short time in the Senedd.

Plaid have 18 councillors in Caerphilly council, and the area is one the party hopes is flirting with the idea of independence. Ms Jewell will have to go some to increase Plaid’s vote share here and out-do their all-time Senedd high of 34.2 per cent in 1999.

A shifting demographic

As with many other areas in the south east of Wales, Caerphilly has seen a shift in demographics in recent years.

Since the Severn Crossing’s toll was removed, areas like Machen, Bedwas and Caerphilly town are now within prime commuter distance of Bristol. Likewise, as Cardiff has advanced up to Caerphilly mountain, the Rhymney valley is now an attractive option for people working from home and travelling into Cardiff. Who such a shift in demographics plays well for is hard to tell, but if turnout jumps, and new voters buck the trend of traditional patterns, you could see it play out during the final count.

That council pay scandal

Local issues can sometimes outstrip national trends in elections. In 2016, UKIP’s Sam Gould campaigned hard on the issue of the closure of Caerphilly Miners’ Hospital seeing the constituency’s A&E department go with it.

One issue that may play a part this time around is the Caerphilly council senior pay scandal. After a seven year pay dispute, the council finally settled with its former chief executive Anthony O’Sullivan in March.

O’Sullivan earned a salary of £137,000 for more than six years, and the pay row cost taxpayers in the county more than £4 million. The fact the council is a Labour run administration may play into opponents’ hands, but on the ground, it does not seem to have played a major part in campaigning.

This traditional Labour safe seat could well be in play come May 6, but a lot has to go in Plaid’s favour if they are to steal it.

Caerphilly is the archetypal seat that Plaid must take from Labour if they are serious about making major gains. Is this where Adam Price’s ‘bridge to Labour voters’ will take effect, or should his party have laid siege to this historic Labour fortification?

The candidates

Steve Aicheler | Liberal Democrats
Hefin David | Labour
Delyth Jewell | Plaid Cymru
Steve Jones | Abolish 
Steven Mayfield | Conservatives
Tim Price | Reform UK